What I Have Learned About Life From My Local Search Marketing Career

I don’t believe in chance. There have been too many experiences in my life that show me otherwise.

Example #1) My Wife – I met my wife in 9th grade on a Junior High ski trip. We were both in the advanced class and the second I set eyes on her something inside me clicked and I knew that she was supposed to be a part of my life (insert mushy Twilight chapter here). We didn’t officially date until 7 years later though I couldn’t keep my mind off her from our first meeting. I spent years at college, 2 years in England, she spent 18 months in Peru, and in a different town and somehow we ended up connected through it all. That doesn’t just happen, 1000’s of things played out perfectly to bring us together and the whole time I was hoping that it would.

Example #2) My Work – The two things that determine how your life will play out the most is who you marry/date and your work. I think about 90% of a persons time revolves around those things. Because that is the case, I never took my career path lightly.

My first “real” job (other than high school work) was selling pest control door to door for Rove Pest Control. I worked for them through all of college and by the time I was ready to graduate, I was set to run the company’s marketing and join the corporate team.  Due to the set up, my wife and I wanted to move back to our home town so we started building a house. The day that we were supposed to break ground, I had a meeting with Rove and decided that I needed to go a different route for work. There were various factors at play,  but ultimately I decided that there was something else for me and I literally had no idea at the time what it was. I still felt  that we should continue with our plans to build the house in Burley even knowing that there was no work there for me, no way to pay for what we were building, and I was about 5 months from finishing up school and moving a pregnant wife to the unknown.

I had one semester of school left and I took a few courses that I had the option to for finishing up my business degree…

  • Web Programming – Where the material was “Don’t make me think.”
  • Web Business – Where we had to start a web business and sell at least one item during the semester.

I put together HugeIdahoPotato.com for the class because I knew I didn’t have time to find a product to sell for the semester and being from Idaho it just fit. ;-).  I drove traffic to the site with adwords and one day after starting the campaign I had my first sell of a 50 pound box of massive spuds. That is when I had a life changing experience. I was looking at the Google Checkout page and I thought…”I could do this…” and from that moment forward I didn’t look back or have any doubts. I didn’t look for any other work. I just started to plan how I would jump into internet marketing for a career.

I started finding odd jobs here and there for people who needed some basic work done on a site, or a ppc campaign set up (still didn’t know much about SEO) and started to build up a list of Ma and Pa shops that were willing to pay me $100 here and there to do things for them.

Starting a business from scratch with everything depending on it is not easy. I couldn’t stop and think about what things would be like in a month, year, 3 years because quite frankly I had no idea what to expect.

Then, one day I was on Aaron Wall’s SEOBOOK Forum and I submitted my original business site theniftyway.com to see what people thought. I got a comment that basically said,

“You are doing everything…Webdesign, SEO, PPC, Etc and your not really great at any of it (gotta love the honesty).  Focus on one area and become an expert on it.”

I thought a lot about that comment. I thought a lot about what I liked and the work that I had been doing. Then I realized, all my clients had something in common…they all had this map that kept popping up when search terms that were important to them were typed. I spent all of one day playing around with Google Places Local Business Listings and then re-designed my site under the idea that I would focus on Local Search.  I spend the next few months testing, testing, testing and reading. That is when I came across David Mihm’s site and literally read almost every single past blog post that he had written, which was a lot more back when he wrote consistently ;-), and I shot him the following email…

I graduated college in January and have since set up an Internet Marketing Business. One of my professors got me into the industry and I can’t get enough. So, I started with adwords and got my certification but through the process have really stumbled upon local search and see a HUGE field ready to explode. So, I have been doing everything I can to learn about local search and am starting to pick up more and more clients. As a seasoned veteran on the preaching and teaching circuit I am just wondering how you would suggest becoming a master of local search?

I would be truly grateful for any information and guidance.

Here was his response…

The best advice I can give you is to optimize the local listings of a bunch of clients.  The more you “play” in the space, the better you’ll get at teasing out the parts of the algorithm that really matter.

Beyond that, subscribe to these blogs:


at a minimum.

Also, if you are into the Twitter thing, check out

David Probably shot out 100’s of these emails to people wanting to know about local, but what he doesn’t know is that everything I have accomplished in search was based on him pointing me the in the right direction from the beginning. I did subscribe to all of the blogs, and I did follow all the people on twitter and they can attest (espeically professor maps) that I stalked them all to an almost creepy point, and I can say that my philosophy behind search has been greatly influence by the individuals above. I realize that if it was not for their dedication to sharing with the industry as a whole I might have gotten lost in the wild west of search and be in a very different circumstance than I am today.

Here are a few things I have learned from them…

Example #1: If you follow Mike Blumenthal at all, you will know that he is a rock. The man follows the guidelines better than Google does, and most importantly he can back up everything that he says about local with solid data. That is a hard thing to emulate and is the reason that Mike is literally the most knowledgeable person around in the world of Google Places + Maps.  Because of this my local search mantra is “What Would Professor Maps Do?” – T-shirts coming soon.

Example #2: Ed Reese: The first time that I went to any type of search conference was getlisted.org Spokane about a year and a half ago and I was scared stiff. I didnt know what to think, and I didn’t know if people would look like their twitter handles. The second I walked in to meet the crew for dinner Ed was all about making sure I was welcomed and included. He has done the same in every situation we have been in together and has taught me how to simply appreciate the people you are with and pass the good karma around.  He is one of the most genuine people I have met. I want to always be able to pay forward what Ed has done for me.

Examaple #3: Matt McGee: The thing I have always found very interesting about Matt is his ability to wear so many hats. He has his gig at Search Engine Land, he runs smallbusinesssem.com, he runs an authoritative U2 site, he takes on clients, is the Editor of Sphinn, and had a few other projects in the past. The man gets things done, and when he can’t get things done that he needs to, he cuts off the weakest link and handles the things he can. That is a hard lesson to learn but after a conversation I had with him about it I have seriously contemplated that in my own business practices.

Overall – It is amazing how I got in Local Search. How I have came to be part of an exciting industry where competitors are friends and sharing is the norm. There is not a handful of business opportunities that offer that.

So, to answer the question of what I have learned about life from Local Search… I have learned that something greater than myself got me here. And the people that I have met along the way are people that I look up to. The qualities that they show in their work, are qualities I want to develop for my life.